David Bowie's Sixties Mod Group the Lower Third
The Lower Third, a mod combo hailing from the London suburb of Margate, was seeking a new frontman in the spring of 1965 when an 18-year-old Davy Jones came to audition. Having honed his stagecraft with primitive R&B bands like the Konrads, the King Bees, and the Mannish Boys during the previous year, the future David Bowie belted Little Richard standards, even blasting solos on a saxophone he helpfully brought along. He got the job, besting his friend – and future Small Faces shouter – Steve Marriott. "We liked the stuff he was doing," the band's guitarist Denis Taylor later told author Marc Spitz, "and he really started to develop an image for us, as well."
Davy Jones and the Lower Third played their first gig together that April, and during the next few months they shuttled back and forth to gigs in an old diesel-fueled ambulance. Their music was potent and raw – sometimes too raw. "We were too loud onstage," Bowie later reflected. "We used feedback and sounds and didn't play any melodies. We just pulverized the sound, which was loosely based on Tamla Motown. We had an ardent following of about a hundred mods but when we played out of London we were booed right off the stage. We weren't very good." The group took the bulk of their inspiration from blues heroes like John Lee Hooker ("We tried to adapt his stuff to the big beat – never terribly successfully."), but Bowie tried his best to inject some original material to the group. "I didn't know how to write a song – I wasn't particularly good at it. I had no natural talent whatsoever ... and the only way I could learn was to see how other people did it. ... I was stumbling around."
He eventually delivered the dour "You've Got a Habit of Leaving Me," featuring hissed lyrics underscored by an chaotic chord structure that borders on dissonance. Considering its enormous debt to early Who and Kinks, it's fitting that the song was recorded with Shel Talmy, a producer who had previously worked with both bands, as well as Bowie during his tenure with the Mannish Boys. Talmy secured the band a distribution deal on Parlophone, the Beatles' label, but the single failed to approach the magnitude of the Fab Four when it hit shops in August 1965. Neither did their follow up, "Can't Help Thinking About Me," released the following January and credited to David Bowie and the Lower Third – marking the first recorded appearance of that soon-to-be-famous moniker.
The union between Bowie and the rest for the Lower Third became uneasy after they took on a new manager whose interest in the frontman appeared more than strictly business. The resentment and rancor within the band was exacerbated by the lack of money and chart success, and they parted company that spring.